Blog! The Decision!

Thanks everyone who left a comment regarding this blog. It means such a lot to know everyone still likes what I put out there and that I’m helpful in some way, even though at the moment I feel like the biggest fraud in the world.

So, I guess I’d like to say that I’m going to keep going with this blog. Yes, at times, especially the bad times, it’s a drain and I wish I didn’t have to say I failed. But I think on the whole, it’s a ‘good’ pressure. It’s certainly helped me to keep going this far so stopping now, when I probably need to keep going the most, seems shortsighted. Plus, I’m afraid I like all you guys (and lurkers!) far too much to give you up. And yes, I do like writing it! In fact far more than I ever thought I would. So, sorry, you’re stuck with me. 🙂

There is a couple of things I want to say though because I think I need to say them. Firstly, there may be people who read my blog and wonder at my intensity about this writing business. Yes, I’m an emotional person and I do have a fondness for the dramatic but that’s not the sole reason I have found this so very hard. About 8 years ago I lost a family member and afterwards – as you do when this kind of thing happens – I thought to hell with a life half lived, I need to follow my dream, if nothing else to make the pointlessness of the loss mean something (sidenote: hey, conflict alert! Quick, someone nick that as a conflict because if you don’t, I will! hehe) . Now, unfortunately with this kind of decision, the dream ends up meaning more than it perhaps should which makes its failure that much harder. I don’t know whether I need to step back from this or not, but I have to say, it has driven me much further than I thought I would ever be prepared to go. Still trying to figure out if that’s a good thing or not.

Secondly, the Hammer Pants ms. Why was it R’d? Well, its faults were many and myriad. But they all stemmed from the same thing, the thing I have ALWAYS struggled with: it’s the conflict stupid. No, the ed didn’t say that specifically but she did point out issues in the characters’ backstory that I skated over, that I should have dealt with and – as is always the way – you go, ‘of course!’ Why didn’t I do that?’ And I didn’t because I didn’t know what those issues were. Why didn’t I know? Because I hadn’t ever got a handle on the conflict.

And herein lies the big problem with my writing. I have not ‘got’ conflict. I’ve done everything the eds suggested – character biographies, interviews, writing out aspects of their backstories. Everything. I tried SO hard. And I learned heaps in the process. But it didn’t work because I have been starting out wrong every time. I still have not understood simple, deep conflict.
And this – I think – is where I am hampered by two things: 1) Up until 2 years ago, I didn’t read romance. All I read were fantasy/SF and literary fiction. 2) I like to do things my own way and I like to be different.
Issue number one means I do not have a background in the conventions of genre fiction. I didn’t even know what conflict was, let alone the fact that romance novels have to have an HEA. I didn’t know that heroes and heroines have to be sympathetic and aspirational and flawed and all those other things, because they don’t have to be in literary fiction.
Issue number two means that I want to be different. I didn’t want to write those stock conflicts – woman loses father, then loses husband and so is wary of love for example. I wanted my conflicts to be different. But of course, since I had no idea about what conflict was – or rather, I’d grasped some aspects of it, but not others – I didn’t know how to make them different. Lastly, I didn’t really understand that there’s a reason those conflicts pop up again and again – because they work! Duh.

Sigh. So if you take that, add the fear of making things too dark, and you have a recipe for disaster. It’s very sad because my dear old Hammer Pants ms was something I wrote 18 months ago. The characters do have life and energy that my most recent stuff doesn’t have, which just goes to show how horrible the last year or so has been for my writing. But the main thing Hammer Pants didn’t have was conflict. And I knew that. I just wasn’t expecting it to win that contest, and I wasn’t expecting a request. And I panicked with the partial. But, to be fair, I think even if I hadn’t panicked and took the time to do it properly, I STILL wouldn’t have got the conflict right. Maybe I needed this rejection in order to learn what I still don’t know.

There are those who say I probably shouldn’t list my problems like this so publically. That editors/agents may read this and view it poorly. Well, that may be the case. And if there are editors/agents reading this, know that this is me making every effort I can to learn my craft in order to make better stories. But I also wanted to let you guys reading now know that even after working with an editor for so long, there are some things that still don’t fall into place. Maybe if I’d fluked one right ms, I may have had the added pressure of having to do a second book in order to handle the conflict issue with more speed. But whatever the case, I didn’t fluke it and my luck ran out.

Anyway, so where do I go from here? I don’t know. I need to learn about conflict because I suspect my problems with it are not specific to Mills and Boon but to the whole romance genre, and in which case, my other mss will not fly anywhere.

Whatever the case, I have been ordered by Dr Jax to take two weeks off writing. This is a horrible thought, especially as two new ideas popped into my head just yesterday (yeah, can’t stop the ideas!) but I’m going to do it. I’ll let the ideas percolate and sit there. And maybe if I’m still excited by them, I’ll go ahead and write them. But until then, it’s no writing for me.

I’ve also decided to take a week off blogging/blog reading too so apologies if I don’t visit you or leave comments. Know that I will be back soon once I’ve cleared my head and the grief of the lost opportunities isn’t quite so raw.

And once again, thank you all so much for reading and for your support. You are all wonderful.

24 thoughts on “Blog! The Decision!”

  1. Sometimes a break is a really great thing. Advice that has often been given to me is to set a manuscript aside for several weeks (!!) before editing it. The distance is supposed to give you clarity.

    I’ll let you know how that works if I can ever last that long.

  2. Love ya, Jackie. Big time. You have my support and you know it. If only this stuff were as easy as some people think…but it’s not. And you know, it never is. People who take their writing seriously have struggles, even post publication. Even after they have conflict ‘down’ there are still those MSs that rear back and bite you in the face.

    The real trick is going forward. Always being willing to learn. And you’re doing that.

    *hugs*

    (commented as Haven the first time…hem)

  3. Julia – yes, well, a number of other people have suggested a break too. So I’m taking that advice. And that distance thing DOES work with an ms so do hold out.

    Maisey – thanks lovie. Yeah, I know. 🙂 I think the one thing I’ve been trying to do for the past year is learn. But it’s been a lot of stuff and all at once and maybe that’s been part of the problem too.
    Lol on Haven. I did wonder why he was posting ‘love ya!’. Hehe.

  4. awwww gorgeous girl… you make me sad and happy all at the same time. You might not get conflict (yet) but, let me tell you, you definitely have the ability to deliver on emotional impact 🙂

    You are all the best kinds of awesome!

    Can’t wait to hear how your 2 weeks off goes for you. You know what… I reckon your head will still be spinning with stories. Dr Jax might be on the money by banning you from actual writing, but I bet the ideas will be bubbling away inside of you, regardless.

    Be good to yourself 🙂

  5. Jackie – I’m sooooooooooooo glad you’ve decided to keep going! And I think Dr Jax is a wise man. Taking time off to refill the well and remember why you LOVE doing this (ie. reading and watching movies that inspire you) is an awesome idea. Love ya lots and can’t wait for your next blog post 🙂

  6. Jackie
    I know I don’t know you but thanks to your blog I feel I do a bit.

    I think Dr Jax is right on the money – do whatever you want to do in the next two weeks without feeling it should be writing related.

    And thank you for your honesty. I lost a family member eight years ago and it has had a profound effect on my life.

    Enjoy the next two weeks (REALLY)

    Nina x

  7. Yay for keeping the blog – I was never in any doubt. ;o)
    A writing hiatus sounds like a good plan, hope it refreshes you chick!
    You’ve worked so very hard to get your head around craft issues over the last couple of years, I wonder sometimes if your dedication to learning clips the wings on your natural sparkle and talent? When you come back again, let rip with that pen girl!!

  8. Jo – awww, thanks hon!! That’s such lovely stuff to say. Oh yeah, the stories don’t stop just because I’m having a break. Stupid things! 🙂 But staying away is actually quite hard. Lol!

    Rach – you and me, babe, we have to keep going huh? Yep, having a break and a breather, doing something different for a while is going to be some good stuff. We shall overcome!

    Nina – I’m going to. I’ve got my ideas just bubbling away. Actually, I did just take five minutes to jot them down but that’s not really writing is it? 😉 I’m sorry to hear about your loss. It does change you doesn’t it? For me, time has made it easier but it’s not something you ever get over. You just learn how to live with it. Hugs to you.

    Jo – m’dear, you have hit the nail on the head. Yep, the craft stuff has not helped. Don’t get me wrong, I needed to know it but it’s not a comfortable fit at the moment. It’s like a cage sitting on top of me. I need to make it less of a cage and more like a house I live in sometimes. 🙂
    Oh and re the blog? Yeah, I think I was always going to come back to it!

  9. YAY! You’re sticking around!

    Time off can be a good thing. Clear your head. Get some perspective. Sometimes when the writing isn’t cooperating it can make you go crosseyed.

    I’m really curious, since you have a SF/F background and worry about the book being too dark, have you ever considered writing a paranormal romance? If nothing else, maybe something completely different when you get back will cleanse your palette.

  10. Elizabeth – lol! Thanks for the faith! It really means so much. As to the SF/F paranormal stuff, yes, funny you should mention that because I have. I’ve actually got a couple of SF novels I started that I never finished. The thing that always gets me about paranormal is that I tend to give up on the world building too easily and the external conflict defeats me. Plus, it’s like there’s so much of that stuff already out there, why would mine be any different? I guess it’s finding that point of difference and I haven’t found it yet. Still, I do have another idea along those lines that’s percolating away. Maybe I should do that first. 🙂

  11. A break is a GOOD thing. You’ll get a rest, refill the well, and be fired up when you return. And we’ll all be here when you do! Miss you already!!!

  12. Jackie Ashenden you are seven shades of fabulous and right now I could just about squeeze the living doodah out of you!

    Once more you have shown your courage and put it all out there so that we don’t feel so alone in our struggles.

    Best of luck with the time off and I’ll be the twitching, red-eyed strung out one in the corner waiting for you to come back!

    Bless girlfriend, and ginormous hugs.

  13. Some time off sounds like it could be just what the doctor ordered. *nudge nudge* See what I did there?

    I know, I know, how is it that I don’t have my own comedy show? 😉

    I’m so glad you decided to keep on blogging. We’ll be waiting for you when you get back!

  14. Sorry about the latest R, Jackie. Glad the blog is sticking around. The best thing about it is your honesty and real emotion. I experience so many of the same doubts and disappointments on my writing journey and it’s nice to know it isn’t just me.

    Enjoy your break.

  15. Hey there, Jackie. I’m one of those lurkers who’s never posted, but I check up on you frequently here (mostly I follow you on subcare at eharl). I was so, so bummed when I discovered hammer pants was an R–damn it all! Huge, mega hugs to you.
    But I am so, so (selfishly) glad you’ve decided to keep up with the blog. It’s become an important part of my own writer’s journey…because even though the romance writing community is on the whole super supportive, your brand of balls-out honesty about the business is something that I really, really need. Because sometimes writers can have days that truly suck. But YOU don’t suck. LOL. This blog does NOT suck. So thank you!!!

    And I have to comment on your issues with conflict because I can so relate to them. I did not come late to romance (I’ve read series romance since I was twelve and that’s *gulp* over thirty years ago.) So, yes, I know the tropes very well. I understand what kinds of wounds and conflict and tortured pasts work well. I’ve read them a zillion times–some of them brilliantly executed, some not. I’ve also read a zillion items on the topic and taken several workshops. I’m a fairly smart person with advanced degrees, too. LOL. But understanding the concept and getting it down on the page are two very different things. I think for some people (especially people who tend to overthink like me), harnassing the creative process and tethering it to a formula is very difficult. And it’s especially frustrating when you see other folks do it seemingly more quickly/easily–folks who might not have the same ability to create cool characters, or who might not be able to write a sentence that’s as dreamy as yours are. And then there’s the stuff that’s out of our control–like coming up with the right idea at the right time and landing it on the right person’s desk. And the teeth-grinding waits.

    After getting a few R’s I knew I had to take control of my frustration. I decided to try other kinds of writing where the formula wasn’t as important. I decided to move some of my eggs out of the HMB basket. I’m still holding on to my dream and likely always will, but with other outlets I can occasionally smash an egg with gleeful freedom and be okay with it. Everyone has their own path, but sometimes you need to be able to skip along quite merrily instead of being so damn careful, you know? So I’m dearly hoping you can find a way to be “different” and be happy and feel successful. I’ve read some of your stuff and I know this is possible. And you’ve certainly been a huge success at blogging–a blog that’s helped many folks get through some tough days. So grateful to you for that.

    Hope your hiatus is perspective-granting and peace-giving. And if those things didn’t happen I hope there was some good vodka. *big grin*

    All the best to you,

    Jen (JenSatt)

  16. Delighted to hear you’re keeping your blog going 🙂

    I reckon there are lots of us who feel we still don’t get conflict. The answer seems to be to study it intensely and make yourself an expert on it. But where to start?

    We could do with a really intense on-line writing course on conflict run by a romance author.

  17. Jackie, if the books you right flow as well as your blogs then you’ve got everything going for you – rejections suck, suck, suck, but please do not let it suck the joy that writing brings you and the joy your writing will bring others when it is published.

  18. Elissa – big hugs right back, sweetie! Thanks for the support. Means such a lot!

    Lacey – you need your own show, truly, you really do. And dammit, you made me smile. And I do NOT want to do that. 🙂

    Anne – We’re all in the same boat huh? And I know that when publication comes round, we’ll perhaps be in a different boat, but still the same sea. I don’t think those doubts etc will ever go away in other words, but having friends to share them with sure makes it easier. 🙂

    Jen – what a lovely comment!! Thank you so much. Yeah, I haven’t been back to Subcare actually because…well, I couldn’t bear to. I only wanted to make the announcement here because I just can’t face saying it again. It’s too raw. I know there’s heaps of lovely people there who are rooting for me but I hate disappointing people and it feels like I would be. Plus it really does feel like ‘yeah, the truth is out, Jackie can’t write after all’. Sigh.
    Anyway, I know totally what you mean about the difference with knowing about conflict but getting it on the page. I do envy people who manage to do so without any effort. I overthink ALL the time too. And that has not helped.
    But definitely I am going to take a few eggs out of the HMB basket and try somewhere else. What I need to do first though is just try and write a story with a good simple conflict, and not feel like I am trying to get all the ‘craft’ rules right. I suspect it’ll come out more natural if that happens. At least, that’s the idea.
    Anyway, thanks for your lovely words about my blog. So glad it helps people get through the rough days. Being honest about the tough times isn’t for everyone and might not be doing me any favours, but if it helps others then I’m okay with that. 🙂

  19. Janet – Thanks! And re the course, name the day and I’ll be there! 🙂 To be honest, I think the difficulties with conflict are things that even published authors struggle with. And that differs from book to book. And sometimes, even the authors themselves don’t know why one conflict works and yet another doesn’t. Read Maisey’s if you want an example of great, strong, simple conflict. No, that’s not just a plug, it’s the truth. 🙂

    Michelle – lol! I do that with write/right too. 🙂 Thank you muchly for your lovely comment! Yeah, I have let the rejections suck away my joy. And my confidence. I do need to get it back somehow. But I think I will!

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